Unclutterer’s 2017 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Stocking stuffers

For me, the best part of giving at the holiday season is stuffing a stocking with small, unexpected, useful items. The kind that surprise and delight the recipient. If you feel the same way, check out our suggestions for those on your list who love to be organized.

A good pocket knife

You cannot go wrong with a good pocket knife. They are immensely useful, convenient, and inexpensive. You can go crazy pouring over every option, but I rely on the Swiss Classic SD as my main carry. I’ve got two, in fact: one on my set of car keys and other on my wife’s. I’ve used mine to open packages, cut rope and string, remove tags from clothing (It easily slices through those annoy plastic rings!), tighten/loosen screws, and open letters.

If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, I recommend the Leatherman Wave, as it has a great mix of tools, is solidly built, and has a nice ergonomic design.

A Grid-It organizer

The Grid-It’s tagline of “the ultimate organizer” may be hyperbole, but not by much. This unassuming little tool comes in several sizes and can hold everything from business cards to cellphones, cables, pens, Altoids tins, and more. It’s secure and reliable. Keep it in a bag, use it for travel, or organize a junk drawer once and for all. They are also great for students who have limited storage space in dorm rooms.

IKEA cable management set

This cable management set from IKEA made my heart skip a beat. Get those cables under control and out of the way. Even if the people on your list have modest cable organization needs, they will appreciate getting them neatly arranged.

A portable scanner

A scanner can be such a boon to organization. Whether the goal is to go paperless or get documents quickly organized in the cloud, a scanner will get the job done. Since we’re discussing stocking stuffers here, we recommend the Doxie Go SE. It’s portable, wireless, and connects to cloud services like Dropbox, Evernote, and Apple’s iCloud. You can expand its memory with an SD card and when connected to Wi-Fi, it can even scan without a computer!

Instant Bag Hanger

The Instant Bag Hanger is a little metal ring which, when opened, lets you hang nearly any bag that weights up to 30 pounds from a counter top, table, cubicle, bathroom door, stroller handles etc. If you’ve ever had that moment of “What do I do with my bag?”, here is the answer. Plus, there is no need to search for it when you need it: simply clip it to the exterior of the bag for easy retrieval. This is one of those gifts that I end up buying twice: once for my recipient, and again for me.

Amazon home cleaning services

You might not know this, but Amazon can hook you up with a house cleaner. Depending on where you live, you may have access to Amazon Home Services (click to confirm availability in your area). Simply provide some information like the size of your house, the type of cleaning you’d like completed, and the number of worker hours you expect. It could be quite nice to receive a post-holiday clean up.

Personal library kit

Finally, here is one for anyone who likes to loan novels, cookbooks or even tabletop games. The Personal Library Kit uses old-fashioned library lending techniques for an organized bit of nostalgic fun. Lend your items with confidence that they will be returned.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Unclutterer’s 2017 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experience gifts

Today begins our annual Holiday Gift Giving Guide. Between now and November 27, we will share numerous articles on uncluttered giving that can be used this season. Most of these ideas also will apply to gift giving throughout the year, irrespective of the occasion.

Every year, experience gifts are some of our most popular suggestions as they don’t take up space, give the gift-recipient something he or she likely would never do for themselves, and can often be accompanied by something like a book or a post-experience photo album to keep the gift in mind forever.

There are some things to consider, however, before giving an experience gift.

Will your gift be used?

Our friends and family know that we love to travel and love to dine out, so we have often received experience gifts for nights in a hotel, or a romantic dinner out. Several times, however, the gift certificate has almost expired for two reasons:

  • A hotel means leaving the city, which requires organizing a weekend (or a weekday as some gift packs don’t accept weekend reservations – it’s a good idea to check).
  • Leaving the city means spending more money in travel costs and unless the destination is a “wow!” for the gift-receiver, that money spent may feel like an obligation.

Are the choices interesting?

Before you give an experience gift, check out the options of where it can be redeemed. A night in a hotel might sound good, but what if the practical options only include hotels that no one would actually want stay at?

If your experience gift is a membership to a museum or cultural venue, really consider how likely that membership is going to be used. I love museums, but not so much that I would visit the local one more than once or twice a year.

Is the experience something the recipient would actually do?

On another note, the experience gift should be something that the recipient would actually follow through on. Be careful with people who talk a lot. For example, I’ve always been curious about a tranquility tank session, but honestly, I doubt I will ever follow through on that.

Taking all of the above into consideration, here are some ideas that might just be the perfect uncluttered gift for those you love.

A day at the spa: a massage or beauty treatment is something that few people buy for themselves, but almost everyone loves.

A night out: most dinner and a movie (plus an offer of babysitting if the gift-receiver has children).

Adventure gifts: if you choose something like a hot air balloon ride or a skydiving trip, don’t forget to make sure that no one suffers from vertigo.

A course: an amateur chef might love a cooking course, someone who loves hugs might appreciate a massage course, or someone who loves taking pictures might get a lot out of a photography course. Again, however, make sure that the person enjoys taking courses, or it may be a gift that never gets redeemed.

Travel gifts: many of this type of experience gifts require getting to and from the location, but if the person is a dedicated traveller, it might be the perfect complement to an already planned trip.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Birthdays and gift-giving

My birthday is coming up and as always I’m getting asked what I want and as always, I don’t really know what to say. I have everything I need and most things that I want. Well, I never have a enough books, but since I read books via my Kindle, they aren’t an easy gift to give me.

I used to tell people that I wanted experiences. Those gift boxes for hotels or dinners or days at the spa, but then I almost always ended up using them at the last minute and only because they were about to expire.

A recent article in MoneySense magazine talks about the new middle class and how the younger generation wants gift cards so that they can buy themselves exactly what they want, when they want it. Personally, I’m against gift cards because they are impersonal and from my point of view, it means that the gift-card giver has to make very little effort to find a gift that fits with the person receiving the gift.

In fact, between receiving a gift card and not receiving a gift at all, I’d choose the latter. And don’t get me started on buying an acre of rain forest, adopting a wild animal or naming a star. If you want to make a donation to something, make the donation; don’t jazz it up saying that it’s a gift.

My mother had a good rule for birthday gifts: something the person would like but would never buy for themselves.

For example, for me that would be something like a virtual keyboard (I’m a bit of a tech geek) or a session in a tranquility tank (the movie Altered States and the show Fringe had a big impact on me). And, I’ll never say no to shoes or to fun kitchen tools (these days I’m dying for a decent marble rolling pin).

Speaking of the last category, one year a then-boyfriend bought me a rice cooker and I was thrilled! Friends were horrified and one even said that a rice cooker as a birthday present would be grounds for divorce in her house. But that’s what’s so amazing about really considering the person receiving the gift. What you might consider a relationship ender, for another person, might be the best, most awesome thing in the whole wide world!

How do you buy gifts? Are they obligations that you grab whatever comes to mind? Do you try to match the gift to the personality, maybe hoping to surprise the person? Or do you pick up something from a very specific list the person has provided you with?

Organized gifts for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is just around the corner so we’ve compiled a list of items that can help male parent figures of all types stay organized.

For dads who travel

Dads who travel might appreciate the UltraLight Roll Toiletry bag. It is It is a little smaller than most conventional toiletry bags but it is made from rip-stop nylon and weighs only 4 ounces (about 100g). It would be ideal for short business trips or weekends away at the campground.

The Mossio set of packing cubes are made of premium quality nylon and two-way zippers. They will help dad keep his clothing organized while travelling. They are also ideal for keeping sports bags and backpacks in order.

If dad travels for business, he’ll need to keep all of his receipts in order. This small expanding file folder has 13 pockets – ideal for keeping meal, hotel, and travel receipts separated and organized.

For DIY dads

For dads who like do-it-yourself projects, here are three gifts that might be appreciated.

The Professional Organizer by Stanley is great for organizing small items like nails and screws. The little yellow compartments can be removed and carried to the job site. They can easily be rearranged within the case. The transparent lid makes it easy to see and access the items. It can also be stored upright in small, narrow spaces and each object stays in its own container.

The MagnoGrip magnetic wristband, made from durable ballistic polyester and extra strong magnets will help keep nuts, bolts, nails, and screws within easy reach when dad is working on a project. No more dropping bolts and having them roll under the car!

Edgeworks’ mini multi-tool is definitely not a unitasker. Perfect for dad’s pocket, this one little pen-sized item contains a stylus, flat and Phillips screwdriver bits, a bubble level, and a ruler with both inches and centimetres. It’s also a cheery bright yellow.

For fitness dads

For dads who play many different sports, the Ultimate Sports Equipment Organizer will keep their baseball bats, lacrosse stick, basketballs, and cycling helmets in one place. This organizer is made from heavy-duty material and has transparent pockets so dad can see exactly what he needs when he needs it.

The BodyMinder Workout and Exercise Journal will help dad keep track of his fitness routine. He can build a schedule, monitor his performance, and see how he is progressing towards his goals.

If dad celebrates sports with commemorative baseball caps, he might appreciate a baseball cap holder to show off his collection as well as keep it organized.

Organized gifts for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner so we’ve compiled a list of items that can help female parent figures of all types stay organized.

For moms at home

Stackable trays that form a jewelry box. There are 27 different compartments that organize earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and brooches. Mom can stack the trays in the order that she chooses and easily reorder the trays at her convenience.

A stylish yet functional cosmetics organizer with four drawers and 20 sections will help mom keep all her make-up in one place. She’ll save time getting ready for her day.

Velvet-covered hangers will save space in mom’s closet and can hold a heavy winter coat. They have notched shoulders so silky, satiny, items will not slip off.

For moms who travel

A compact travel jewelry case made from super soft felt is perfect for mom to transport her jewellery whether she’s going on an overnight outing or to business conference. It has a place for everything. It even snaps necklaces in place so they won’t get tangled.

When traveling one never knows how much space there will be in the bathroom. This cosmetics bag, with dividers and compartments, can either rest on the vanity or hang on the back of the bathroom door. It would be ideal for both vacationing or hanging in mom’s locker at the office or gym.

Moms that travel need to keep their cords and cables organized. This sturdy pouch with 10 separate compartments keeps all mom’s tech gear tangle-free. The transparent panels with labels allow mom to quickly and easily find what she needs. The compartment dividers are adjustable so cables and chargers of all sizes will fit.

For moms who keep fit

Does mom spend too much time looking through messy cupboards for a water bottle? She might appreciate a stackable water bottle storage rack. She can place the rack in a cupboard or right on the counter to keep her sports bottles ready to go.

To help mom keep her fitness area tidy, install a simple over-the-door coatrack to hang her jump rope and resistance tubing.

Moms who enjoy protein shakes might appreciate the ProStack Blender Bottle. The little containers that snap on the bottom of the shaker bottle will allow mom to make her protein shake immediately after her workout without carrying around little plastic baggies of protein powder. This product might also be useful for making up baby formula when mom is on the go.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Wrap up

2016 gift giving guideThis wraps up the 10th anniversary of the Holiday Gift Guide here on Unclutterer. I hope this series of posts inspired you to give uncluttered, organized, and/or useful gifts this year. To recap:

And speaking of “wrapping up” here is an interesting video on using furoshiki, a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that can be used for wrapping gifts. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, consider uncluttering a closet and converting a favourite shirt, dress or blanket into re-usable gift bags.

 

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Buying a laptop for school

2016 gift giving guideWhen I was a high school and college student, computers only existed in the school’s library or in the computer lab. Today, they’re as ubiquitous as group projects and starchy cafeteria meals. Elementary school students will be introduced to computers, and by the time they’re in junior high, kids will receive, complete and turn in homework assignments digitally. As such, a laptop makes a great gift for many students. In this article, I’ll go over how to approach this shopping task. The first thing to determine is what type of computer they’re going to need. The best source for an answer is the school itself.

Ask the school

My first bit of advice applies to buying any school supplies: check with the school. The IT department at your student’s school — junior high, high school or university — has probably published minimum requirement guidelines. For example, something like these recommendations from my alma mater. They’ll include the preferred operating system, hardware requirements, security concerns and so on.

You’ll notice that the guidelines I linked above are for architecture students. Those studying different disciplines will have their own requirements. Again, checking with the IT department is the best way to start. For example, my kids’ school uses Google Classroom extensively, and therefore suggests that students use Chromebooks.

The specifics

The school’s guidelines are a good starting point, but there is always a little leeway. If the school is suggesting a Chromebook but you would prefer to buy a Windows machine or a Mac, you may be able to do so.

Consider how your student will use his or her machine. For instance, should you buy a bigger/heavier or smaller/lighter machine? Will it be carried from class to class or sit in a cart between assignments? Perhaps it will stay home and not travel to school at all.

Next, look at internal storage. A solid state drive (SSD) will perform much better than a traditional, mechanical hard drive because it is fast with super snappy search and retrieval. But if the student will mostly do word processing, a less expensive hard drive is just fine.

Lastly, look at peripherals that you’ll need. A sturdy, ergonomic mouse is a good idea, as is a good laptop stand. A simple bag is useful as well, especially if the computer will be traveling to and from class.

What to buy

With all that said, here are my picks — one of each operating system.

Chromebook

11282016_delll13chromebook

 

The Dell Chromebook 13 is a fantastic little computer. At $430, it feels like a laptop that cost hundreds more. It’s got a fantastic keyboard, a solid, quality trackpad and enough “oomph” to get kids through their assignments with ease. The eleven-hour battery life is a bonus, as is the 16 GB solid state drive and 4 GB of RAM. This is the Chromebook I would buy if I were in the market.

PC

11282016_dellwindowslaptop

If you prefer a Windows operating system, consider the DELL XPS 13.3″ Ultrabook. It offers a great-looking display and has small, portable body. It’s perfect for any coursework assignment. The aluminum body will take minor bumps and scrapes (let’s face it, kids aren’t always kind to their things).

Mac

11282016_macbookair

For most students, a MacBook Air will serve their needs. I recommend an Apple-certified refurbished model like this one. The Air is ultra portable, features startup times that are incredibly fast and has access to Apple’s ecosystem of apps and services. Plus, Apple laptops retain their resale value very well.

A laptop makes a very nice gift indeed, and hopefully this guide helps you choose the very right one. Happy shopping.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Black Friday

2016 gift giving guideYou may be someone who enjoys heading out to the stores on Black Friday. Maybe it’s a family tradition, and maybe some things on your list have great Black Friday prices. (If you’re not a Black Friday fan, it may console you to know that some people expect there will be better deals for many things in December.)

But whether you shop on Black Friday or on other days, the following are some thoughts to consider:

Try to avoid gifts that will become clutter. Over the past few days we’ve provided some suggestions that may help you out with that. But no matter how careful you are with your gift selections, once in a while a gift will not work well for the recipient. So take it in good spirits if a gift you gave winds up getting returned. Make things easy for your gift recipient by including a gift receipt when one is available.

Consider whether or not your gift recipient wants a gift at all. Recently I’ve noticed some people asking that any money that would have been spent on gifts for them be donated to charity instead, with a list of preferred charities being provided.

If you can afford to do so, you may want to participate in a program that gives holiday gifts to low-income households. I really enjoyed shopping for the women I “adopted” this year, going through their wish lists and getting them everything from socks to sweatshirts to nail polish.

Remember that some gifts are best when not bought too far in advance. For example, most chocolates, such as these truffles from Sweet Mona’s, will last quite a while. (I called the store and spoke to Mona about their shelf life.) However, some chocolates need to be eaten fairly quickly: 14 days from shipment, 30 days from receipt, etc.

Look at shopping options beyond the malls and the online choices. I’ve found fine gifts for people on my list at local shops and at some of the many art and gift fairs that are held this time of year. And if you’ve got the time and skills for homemade gifts, they can be wonderful when given to the right people. I just received a handmade quilt, and it’s one of the best gifts ever.

Stock up on thank-you note cards (or general-purpose note cards you can use when writing those thank you notes). If you need help writing a thank-you note, the late Leslie Harpold has good advice.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Tech for the person who has everything

2016 gift giving guideCome holiday time, there are three types of people to shop for: there are the people who are easy to buy for, the ones who are difficult to buy for, and finally, those individuals who seem to have everything they want or need. Their tastes are clearly defined, so you can think of a thousand and one things they’d love to have, but it seems like they already have them.

Fear not! In this article, I’ll list cool tech gadgets for the person who (seemingly) has everything.

Let’s start with the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard. This handy device folds up for tidy storage and easy travel when not in use. It is compatible with iPads, iPhones, Android devices and Windows tablets. Plus it’s very easy to use, simply unfold it to turn it on and close it up again to turn it off. Once the Bluetooth connection is established you’re good to go.

11222016_keyboard

When you’ve finished a long day at work, relax with these outdoor holiday lights with built-in Bluetooth speakers from Bright 11222016_speakerlightsTunes. It sounds kind of silly, but hear me out. Often times people will use what I used to call “Christmas lights” for all sorts of decorating. They look great on a porch, for example. This set includes small Bluetooth speakers that are compatible with nearly all smartphones and tablets. Just set them up, make the Bluetooth connection, and choose your favorite playlist.

About a year ago, I bought The Roku Smart TV for myself and I just love it. Not only is it one of the least expensive Smart TVs you can buy, it got rave reviews from CNET, and I can see why. It is easy to set up, has great picture quality, and this TV is a serious unclutterer. Since it has so many services built in (Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon Prime and many more), I was able to toss my Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. No more set-top boxes sitting around, no more pile of remotes. It’s a fantastic device.

Finally, let’s switch from the home to the car for the Automatic Pro. It’s an adapter that plugs into a port under the dashboard on most cars sold in America. It then uses 3G connectivity (at no additional charge) to share information with its smartphone app. It helps you diagnose engine trouble, keep track of where you’ve parked, alert emergency services if you’re in an accident, and more.

Additionally, it lets you keep track of your car’s whereabouts. Kids driving on a long road trip and you want to be sure they’re safe? Or, car stolen? Now you know exactly where the car is. Alert the police and make a recovery.

There you have some cool gifts for those people on your list who seem to have everything. Happy shopping and enjoy your holiday.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Gifts for clutter-prone rooms

2016 gift giving guideThe holidays are a time to gather with loved ones, feel a deep sense of gratitude, and receive presents! I kid of course…kind of. We all have a list of things we would love to have but we would never buy for ourselves. In this article, I’m going to point out several such items for the areas of the home that are very prone to clutter: the home office, the kitchen and the shed or garage. These items will delight the unclutterer on your list.

For the home office

There are many fantastic digital organization tools available. Still, there is nothing like a paper planner, and my favorite by far is the Hobonichi Techo. This Japanese brand day planner/notebook has been on my desk for years. It features thin yet remarkably durable paper that resists ink bleed-through. It can be used as a notebook, planner, journal or sketchbook. The spine features lay-flat binding, which I love, and it is sized for travel. There are cool covers available too, if you want to go all out.

field notes notebookJust like the Hobonichi Techo, I have a fierce loyalty to Field Notes notebooks. While the Techo sits on my desk, the Field Notes notebook is in my back pocket, all day, every day. It is a durable tool that’s ready for work. Anything I need to capture in the moment – an appointment, an idea, a request or a task to add to a project – is written in my notebook. At work, people simply say to me, “…put it in your notebook,” because they know that’s just what I’m going to do. Field Notes are stylish, sturdy, and small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. I’m literally never without one.

You’ll need a pen for all that writing, and you can’t go wrong with a Fisher Space Pen. (And yes, it did go into space.) This rugged, compact pen can write at any angle (for the times when the only flat surface is a vertical wall) and on almost any material – including wet paper! It’s the perfect companion to the Field Notes notebook.

For the kitchen

11212016_dishrackCan a dish rack be beautiful? If you’re thinking of the Polder KTH–615 Advantage Dish Rack, the answer is “yes.” The Polder is strong and stable with a small footprint. It’s also got a huge utensil rack that can hold an impressive collection of forks, knives and spoons without falling off. For those days when you’ve got more dishes than usual, the slide-out tray will accommodate them all.

The bakers on your list will love the Joseph Joseph 20085 Adjustable Rolling Pin. Here’s what’s really cool about this rolling pin: with a simple adjustment, you can ensure that you’re flattening your dough to a specific, uniform thickness. Baking demands precision and this tool lets you achieve just that. No more worrying if the dough is too thin.

For the garage/shed

11212016_toolboxNothing beats a good set of tools, except the container you use to store them all. While big metal toolboxes are nice, I love the Jobsite Work Box by Milwaukee. The great feature here is that the Jobsite Work Box stores tools vertically in slots, completely eliminating the jumbled pile of tools that nearly every other toolbox contains. It’s lightweight, portable and very durable. There are other boxes that offer vertical storage, and most are much more expensive than the Milwaukee.

There you have it. If you know someone that would like one of these items but wouldn’t go out and buy it him/herself, go ahead and purchase it for that person. Demonstrate what an insightful gift-giver you are this holiday season.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Long-lasting kitchen gifts

2016 gift giving guideThis year my husband and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. In honour of this occasion I am presenting a list of items we bought or were given early in our marriage that we still own and use all the time. These items have not only lasted through 25 years of marriage but ten household moves – four cross-continent and two trans-Atlantic.

Mixing Bowls

mixing bowls with lidsPyrex bowls with matching lids are amazing. Made from durable glass so they are oven, microwave, fridge, freezer and dishwasher safe. They nest inside each other so they take up minimal space in cupboards. Because you can seal the bowls with a lid, you can mix ingredients and store them on the counter or in the fridge and do the final preparations later. They can also double as serving bowls or, snap on a lid and easily take a salad to a potluck dinner.

Flatware

stainless flatwareGood quality stainless steel flatware means you will only ever need to have one set because it is durable for every day use and nice enough for meals with special guests. Stainless steel is dishwasher-safe (easy to clean after dinner parties) and unlike silver, it never requires polishing. If this is a gift option for someone you know, I suggest a classic design that is not likely to go out of fashion or out of production. Look for a pattern that also has matching serve ware (butter knife, slotted spoon, etc.).

Cookware

If ceramic cookware had been available when we got married I would have appreciated a set with lids that fit both the pots and the pans. We did receive a lovely stainless steel pot that is still in wonderful condition. If you give or receive a gift of ceramic cookware, get a set of nylon cooking utensils – essential to protect the ceramic coating. Our set of utensils has lasted through our entire marriage.20161118_ceramic_pots_set

Bakeware

I love our bakeware set. It is dishwasher-safe, can be used in the microwave or oven, and can be easily transferred to the refrigerator or freezer. I wish our set had included plastic lids. It would be much easier to store items in the fridge or freezer, or to take them to potluck dinners. Since bakeware lasts a long time, if you’re considering this item, choose a classic pattern that will coordinate with all types of décor.20161118_bakeware

Knives

I recommend an excellent set of kitchen knives. Check out our post from 2011 for our list of recommended kitchen knives.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Unclutterer’s 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Experience Gifts

2016 gift giving guideExperience gifts can be one good way to avoid clutter, although you still need to select them with care to match the recipients’ interests. The following list goes beyond the common gifts (such as a gift certificate for a massage) to give you some more food for thought. Although the examples come from selected U.S. cities, you may be able to find something similar in other areas.

Because some people want to give something tangible, I’ve also suggested books you could match with these experience gifts.

One reminder: If using your gift will cause the recipient to incur significant additional expenses (babysitting, parking, etc.) then consider including some cash to cover these expenses or arranging to have them pre-paid, when possible.

Visits to local attractions

There’s a saying about tourists seeing places that long-term residents never do, and that can certainly be true. In my area, the Winchester Mystery House is a well-known place that I’ve never visited in the 40+ years I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. The ticket prices always seemed a bit high, but I’d definitely go if someone got me a ticket. You may know of similar places your gift recipient would like to visit.

It’s always easier on the recipient if you can buy a gift certificate rather than tickets for a specific day. If the website doesn’t mention gift certificates, try calling. That’s what I did for the Winchester Mystery House, and I found out that gift certificates are indeed available.

If you’d like to include a book, one option is Side Walks — a journal that encourages readers to explore their cities.

Museum gift cards

We’ve mentioned museum memberships on Unclutterer in the past, but a gift card (or gift certificate) allows the recipient to purchase a range of things: admission (or a membership), classes, food and beverage at the museum café, etc.

Of course, the gift card can also be used at the museum gift shop, which will result in more stuff, but that’s the recipient’s choice.

These gifts can work for both adults and children. Just a few of the museums that offer gift cards are the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

Appropriate books will depend on the type of museum and the age of the gift recipient. For adults interested in natural history museums, you might choose Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums. Children ages 8 to 12 might like Animalium: Welcome to the Museum, which has gorgeous illustrations.

Arboretum and state park gift cards

As with museum gift cards, these are an alternative to memberships or annual passes (which can also be great gifts). The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum notes that its gift cards (which can be used for admission, membership, classes, restaurant meals, etc.) never expire. The Morton Arboretum has a long list of things the cards can be used for, including chamber concert tickets, tram tours, and Mother’s Day brunch. They can be bought in any denomination, so you can spend the amount that works best for you.

Arizona State Parks gift cards can be used for day use, overnight camping, and cave tours (as well as gift shop purchases). Ohio State Parks gift cards and certificates can be used for camping, cabin or lodge rentals, six state park golf courses, boat and bike rentals, etc.

An interesting companion book might be Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails and Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness.

Ball park tours

Most of these tours require you to buy tickets for specific dates and times, but Wrigley Field tours are available via gift certificate. Others might offer gift certificates if you called and asked — if not, you would need to coordinate with your gift recipient. If you want the gift to be a surprise, you could always give a greeting card saying, “Good for a tour of the ball park. Let me know a good time for you and I’ll buy the ticket.”

One possible book to partner with this gift is the novel Bang the Drum Slowly. For children, books from the Ballpark Mystery series might be fun.

City art and architecture tours

There are all sorts of city tours available, many focused on food and beverages and others focused on the city’s history. But some of the most interesting-sounding tours are ones like these:

Of course, there are many wonderful books about art and architecture that could get paired with a gift certificate or tickets for such tours. One book to consider is The Architecture of Happiness.

Feel welcome to explore our previous Gift Giving Guides for even more ideas: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.